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Image: 1979 Cadillac Seville


Cadillac Seville

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Image: 1979 Cadillac Seville

As the 1970s came to a close, the look of the American luxury car had changed dramatically. At the beginning of the decade, long before any oil embargo, gas shortages, or gas price increases, luxury cars were big. Even models that leaned toward families were big. Four door sedans and station wagons in many cases were almost as large as the luxury models. Check out an Oldsmobile Delta 88 or a Ford Country Squire from the early part of the decade. These were big cars.

And that's what people wanted. Room to stretch out. The security of knowing there was something of substance between you and other drivers. But realities soon changes people's opinions about transportation, and the fear of not being able to buy gas—no matter what it cost—was of greater concern at the end of the decade than it was at the beginning.

The luxury imports were of little concern during the early seventies. Yes, sales were increasing and access to dealers who sold and serviced the imports was expanding, but the real impetus for smaller luxury cars like the Cadillac Seville was the oil embargo of late 1973. That was when the decision was made at Cadillac to develop a new smaller car, and the timeline for doing so was very short.

What Cadillac came up with that was introduced in the spring of 1975 was a smaller, distinctively styled, luxury car that had a high level of standard equipment and a price tag to match. Concerns that people wouldn't accept a small Cadillac were erased immediately, as sales were strong from the very beginning. The first model, for 1976, was introduced early and had a long sales year. Changes for 1977 were minor, and included a new grille that resembled an after market one that had been installed on many '76 Sevilles in California. Four-wheel disc brakes were an important improvement in braking capabilities. 1978 brought about Electronic Level Control and Electronic Spark Selection, but more substantial changes weren't needed as the Seville was selling in record numbers.

The 1979 Cadillac Seville was little changed from 1978. This would be the final year for this body style, and there was no reason to make changes just for the sake of change. However, when it came to comfort, Cadillac's policy was one of continual improvement, and changes were made to retune the suspension for a better ride, and new body mounts were also fitted. The grille had a slightly finer pattern than before, although you had to look hard to see the difference. Inside, new standard upholstery was a combination of Dante and Roma fabrics, which combined a smooth texture and pattern with a striped pattern in six colors.

Exterior paint colors included 14 standard shades, and seven optional Firemist colors could be ordered. Again, Seville buyers could choose between a bare metal top or a Tuxedo Grain padded vinyl roof, which was available in 17 colors, at no charge.

New options for 1979 included Electrically Controlled Left and Right Side Rearview Mirrors with Illuminated Outside Thermometer, and a Digital Display Radio with 8-Track Tape Player and 40-Channel Citizens Band Radio.

Since its introduction, the Cadillac Seville had become the darling of the after market automotive custom industry. By 1979, there was a two-door convertible, a four-door sedan stretch, a two-door, two-passenger opera coupe, and a Gucci Seville that came with a full set of Gucci luggage in the trunk.

Sales of the Seville were just slightly down from 1978's peak record, due more than anything to a second gas crisis that began in the spring of 1979, when Iran stopped shipments of oil to the United States. Memories of the gas crisis earlier in the decade came back to haunt the public, once again faced with higher prices and long lines at the gas pumps. This time, the public would not go back to the full-sized cars as they had earlier; this time the change to smaller, more fuel-efficient cars would be a permanent one, and one that would forever change the American automobile industry.


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